Art critics evaluate art in a historical context. They see the big, overall picture of what is going on in a culture during the specific time it is created. The most successful art is a reflection of the zeitgeist of its creator. It is the art critic that is able to spot a movement.
Art critic and curator, Walter Hopps, noticed a new kind of style popping up in art competitions. It had a spiritual, fantasy element to it but it was not illustration or sentimental. It reflected the human potential movement and spiritual awakening happening in California in the 1970’s. It’s important to remember these were artists painting spiritual or drug-induced awakenings before special effects, computers, or CGI. They were seeing the world in a new way and sought to share that vision.
When an artist gets a bad review for his work it is usually because he is not being authentic to his time or himself.
Many artists were influenced by California Visionary Art and the first two or three generations were part of the spiritual awakening happening at the time; the ashrams, the gurus, the meditation groups, the groups focusing on peace towards people and animals (vegetarianism), the awakening of Buddhism in the West.
By the 4th generation, we see people painting unicorns and rainbows with garish colors with sickly sweet sentimentality. These artists adapted the “persona” of a movement but were not “authentic” to the movement. This work is not collectible and critics see it for what it is, derivative.
Art critics have years of art history education under their belt and even experience viewing, curating, or judging artwork for exhibitions. They can spot an artist copying another artist in an instant.
Tropical Dream has been part of my private art collection for over two decades. I apprenticed as a painter with Gage Taylor for 4 years, served as an USIA Art Ambassador with him for the US State Department, and we collaborated professionally on canvas for many years under the signature Taylor Dana.
In his lifetime, Gage’s work was exhibited nationally in the Smithsonian, The Whitney Museum in NY, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Huntsville Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The National Museum of American Art, The Haggin Museum in Sacramento and the Oakland Museum.
Internationally it was exhibited with the Paris Biennale, the India Triennale, and Ortona, Italy.
Our collaborative work was featured in The Egyptian Rosicrucian Museum In San Jose, Ca and what is now the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle. Internationally Taylor Dana was exhibited at The National Museum of Art in Jamaica & the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana.
Gage Taylor (1942-2000) was considered one of the six originators of an art genre known as California Visionary Art. (Visions, Walter Hopps, Pomegranate Press). California Visionary art followed the poster art craze made popular by record covers. These artists made history and changed the course of art. Twelve of Gage Taylor’s early works were printed as posters by Pomegranate Publishing; including ”Mescaline Woods” and ”The Road”. Artweek’s David Clark estimated that Taylor’s reproductions (and those of his compeer Bill Martin) “are on millions of walls throughout the western world.” They were profiled in publications as varied as Newsweek & Omni Magazine.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas as Dennis Gage Taylor, he received his BFA from University of Texas, Austin (1965). Gage graduated with an MFA from Michigan State University (1967) where he later taught sculpture and drawing.
In 1969 he married his high school sweetheart and moved to California. He started working at the San Francisco Academy of Art. San Francisco was still in a post-coital summer of love phase and Gage spent hours smoking pot, dropping mescaline, and communing with the Nature Spirits. He was an avid meditator, and loved hiking and painting in nature every week. This is the time that most influenced his early work.
Ironically, Gage could not sell one painting as long as it was signed “Dennis Taylor.” In meditation, he was guided to legally drop his first name. He did, and within a year, Gage Taylor was internationally known as a painter.
Gage had his first One Person Show in 1970 at the San Francisco Art Institute. (He taught there in 1971 for one year). He also published the first of 14 posters (The Road, Pomegranate Press). In 1974 Taylor became a biographee in Who’s Who In American Art and Who’s Who In the West.
By 1975 he was featured in the Paris Biennalle at the Museum of Modern Art (“Mindscapes From The New Land”) in Paris, which went on to tour Germany. His “Baja” exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was also in 1975 as well as his participation in “Hanson Fuller Gallery Pays Tribute to the Art Institute”, San Francisco.
In 1976 Gage’s work was included in the National Collection of Fine Art in Washington DC. (“California Painting and Sculpture”). This exhibit had traveled from The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.(California Painting and Sculpture,1976).
1977 brought his work to the Huntsville Museum of Fine Art in Huntsville, Alabama (“The Modern Era-A Bay Area Update”) and he was featured in the July 11,1977 issue of Newsweek.
Gage’s paintings were also included in the India Triennalle (“California Visionary Art”) and his work then travelled as a group exhibition through Nepal and Japan.
In 1978 he began a two-year project painting California’s Endangered Landscape Series under sponsorship of the Oakland Museum of Natural Sciences Guild. His work was also featured in “Vision Quest” at the Hall of Flowers, San Francisco.
In Sept of 1979 Gage Taylor’s “Holy Grove” was the first art centerfold featured in Omni Magazine. “Holy Grove” was later included in the touring exhibit “Artists of Omni Magazine” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City in 1980.
In 1981 his work was included in a group show at James Atkinson Gallery in Houston, Texas and later in the year Gage’s work traveled to Ortona, Italy in an exhibit called “The Soft Land”.
The Nasty Bits: In 1982 Marin County was declared a State Disaster Area as rainstorms devastated the area. The irony of this was it was the very day Gage and his first wife decided to divorce. Unknown to Taylor, a swollen mountain stream by his home had created a dam of debris, turning a forest of Bay Laurels into battering rams.
The dam gave way and destroyed the house with Taylor, his wife and their two children inside. They all survived, but his wife was left a quadriplegic requiring 24-hour care for the rest of her life. Gage and his children never recovered from survivor’s guilt and post traumatic stress from the event. It was a physical and financial blow that Gage Taylor would never really recover from. It was this single event that eventually led to Gage and I painting together years later. It also began a more spiritual path for Gage in his art.
Part two of Gage Taylor’s life begins when we meet and I became his apprentice. (He had many apprentices that went on to have very successful art careers).
In 1983 Gage was invited to participate in an exhibit the San Rafael Civic Center in CA called “The San Geronimo Valley Artists”. He was also invited to participate in a similar themed exhibit at The College of Marin Gallery (Kentfield, CA) called “Artists of the San Geronimo Valley”. I was a student studying Sculpture and Museum Management and helped launch the exhibit. Gage and I met when I was receiving artwork and filling out insurance information for the exhibit. I had been a huge fan of Gage Taylor from his cards and posters going back to when I was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany in the 1970’s. I invited him to participate in an upcoming exhibit I was curating at the College of Marin Gallery called, “Crystal Energy”. He invited me to be his student. (1983-1987)
Crystal Energy (1983) was a major exhibit about rare quartz crystals that heal from the Scientific, Metaphysical and the American Indian points of view. Many internationally known artists and speakers were featured. I took a chance and included 3 small pieces of my art in the exhibit.
The owners of The Illuminarium Gallery discovered my work and invited me to exhibit in their galleries. (They also cloned my exhibition in several of their future galleries).
Long before adding me, The Illuminarium represented Gage’s individual work from 1978 to 1988. Gage and I both exhibited regularly in their galleries in Marin, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills.
Gage and I began collaborating together in 1984. We painted in his style on the same canvas. We were both only children and working together was an effective and pleasant way for me to learn. It allowed him to teach me and increase his income with our additional work. (Our gallery represented both of us and people liked the collaborations). Although it was an intense way to learn, I retained my own distinct voice as an artist.
In 1985 Gage Taylor’s work was in the Hall of Flowers exhibit “Bay Area Regionalists” in San Francisco, “Artists of the Bay Area -1945 to Present” at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, and “100 Vows of the Sun” at the Southern Exposure Gallery in San Francisco. (My work was also included in this exhibit).
At this time our collaborative work was featured in the gallery scenes of Shirley Maclaine’s mini series based on her best selling book, Out on A Limb (1986). It was also the first year our collaborative work was listed in the Encyclopedia of Living Artists (1986) and in Art Diary, Perugia, Italy (1986).
By 1988 Gage and I decided we wanted work that would be a synergy of our mutual interests. Both of us had studied all the world’s religions and mythologies, we both were meditators that honored the unseen worlds in our work. Based on archetypes that repeat in the East, the Middle East, and the West, Taylor-Dana was born.
These collaboration took on a life of their own at the Art Awards 88 (1988) National Competition in Bellevue, Washington (now Bellevue Art Museum).
Later, an exclusive retrospective of the Taylor-Dana work was given in 1993 at the Rosicrucian/Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA named “The Mythic Image”. (A limited edition poster of the painting “Honoring the Goddess” was printed for the Exhibit).
Our collaborative work was sold at the Illuminarium Gallery & Isis Rising Galleries in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Santa Monica, and Tampa; Center Art Galleries in Honolulu, Hawaii & multiple locations on Maui, Hawaii. Dyansen Galleries, Maui, HI. Our work was also sold through Addi Galleries on Maui, HI & Fine Art Collections in Kona, HI.
In Hawaii the Taylor-Dana work was commissioned for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kauai, and Gage Taylor was commissioned to paint 15 watercolors for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Waikoloa, Hawaii in 1988. During this time we became Art Ambassadors for the Arts America Program for the USIA (part of the U.S. State Department) (1987). We toured and exhibited work through the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, & Guyana) in this invitational post assisting the creative community. We also had an exhibition of our work at the Brazilian Embassy as it was near Guyana. One of our gouache paintings (Two Tigers) was acquired for the International Collection of the Jamaica National Gallery of Art in Jamaica.
We moved our studio to Sausalito, CA in 1990. Our work was represented at Hanson Galleries in Sausalito, LaJolla, & Carmel, CA., Eaton Galleries (Sausalito), Sierra Galleries, Tiburon with work represented on Maui, HI by Addi Galleries.
From 1991 Gage Taylor and I were represented by Conacher Galleries on Maiden Lane in San Francisco until Don Conacher’s death.
In addition to Gage’s dozen posters with Pomegranate Press, Taylor’s work was published on 75 Art Cards (50 with myself) with Visionary Publishing, Queens Cards and Milk and Honey Publishing. Taylor cards were published by Pomegranate Press as well as one billboard for National Tire Company (I had a billboard for Relax America Music label). His work was also used on a National ad for Boise Cascade Company, several magazine covers, and other creative works and prints.
Gage Taylor wrote one children’s book Bears at Work (Chronicle Books) and had written 4 young adult books & their screenplay adaptions that were unpublished at the time of his death.
Late in 2000 Gage Taylor, who had never been ill, was diagnosed with 4th stage Prostate Cancer. Four months later he was gone.
It’s hard to describe what its like when you lose someone who has touched every part of your life for 17 years. My 3 oldest friends suddenly died during the same time period. I went into a traumatic shock and grief kept me from painting a long time. Tropical Dream was Gage’s idea of Heaven. For me to move on to my own version of Heaven I am letting go of his. Please contact me at [email protected] if you are interested in adding this painting to your collection.